Savage Species by Jonathan Janz

The Algonquin Falls grand opening proves deadly when creatures of myth emerge from below and begin slaughtering every man, woman and child. Trying to avoid being killed and eaten, Jesse and his group have no choice but to enter the expansive cave system under their feet and search for alternate means to escape the state park. Soon they meet up with Charly and her band of survivors that are on a rescue mission, and together they join forces where not only are they outnumbered, but something much larger, more powerful, is also on their trail.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I quite enjoy the bloody mayhem of the creature feature sub-genre, and Janz certainly didn’t disappoint here with his knack of constructing scenes rife with tension right before all-out chaos. When I say all-out chaos, I don’t mean it in a mild sense; details were heavy with viscera and sexualised violence. It’s the over the top approach that has its charm, and can even bring a smile to your face when undesirable characters finally get their comeuppance. In this Janz excels, and the monsters involved really drew my attention. They were, without a doubt, one of the stronger aspects in the novel. I feel like I can always count on Janz to create monstrosities of the highest calibre (I adored the antagonist of The Sorrows a great deal), and so I always wonder what wickedness I’ll behold in his next book.

There were some segments where I found myself so intent on what was happening – the subterranean survival elements in all their oppressive glory proved immensely engaging. I favoured Charly and her maternal determination, as well as Colleen and her sassy attitude, yet most of the male characters were afflicted with exaggerated personalities. By this, I mean that they were sex-crazed, and their thoughts often gravitated toward the female form in times of jeopardy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sleazy characters, but it’s something I just don’t care for when it’s carried out in such an excessive manner. So far it’s been a reoccurring theme in the other books I’ve read by the same author, with perverted characters (The Sorrows), or characters accused of being perverted (The Siren and the Specter). Here’s the thing: you can make a character unlikeable without them being obsessed with sex. There’s many, many unsavory traits to choose from. Men aren’t all cardboard cut-outs.

Another complaint I have is something that’s going to be difficult to explain, but I’m going to try regardless. This sub-genre depends upon the survival of a certain few against unspeakable odds – monsters that are superior in many ways, even challenging terrain – and so their prolonged struggle has to be believable, right? It struck me that these people wouldn’t have lasted two seconds against two separate armies, added to that the majority of the setting taking place in the creatures’ own environment. Their constant near-death experiences got to be a little too much at times, to the point it seemed a disservice to the creatures themselves. But I get it, all in the name of entertainment, and I’m nothing if not nitpicky.

It’s these little things that nibbled away at my suspension of disbelief, and I couldn’t help but think that particular facets could have been done better. It’s not that I hate Janz’s formula, it’s just that it doesn’t altogether work for me.

In conclusion: There were elements I both liked and disliked in Savage Species, making it the definition of a mixed bag. The monsters and their brutality thrilled me, yet at times I was brought out of the immersion to confront some unrealistic angles. Janz is however a prominent figure on my ‘to-read’ list, with several titles I’ve still yet to consume.

Notable Quote:

A new species of dread awoke deep inside him. Despite the staccato machine-gunning of the rain on the roof, despite the roars of the creatures and the wails of the dying… despite all of it he still heard the thump if his own heartbeat, felt a febrile pulse in the pit of his throat.

© Red Lace 2019

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